Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Herding Mentality -Help! What are these beetles in our Vine Maple?

Please help us identify these beetles:
**note: I clicked on the images and was almost horrified at what I saw. I appears that perhaps these eggy things are being 'covered' as if they had just been deposited. Now I must check the remaining images not used in this post for more clues.
We found them on our Vine Maple this summer.
The reason I originally noticed them was their formation. Notice how they are all perched facing the same direction. They are actually sitting on top of eggs. Keeping them safe? warm? incubating? hatching......? laying? eating? Notice nymph stage beetle standing with them.

As I watched, getting close with the camera lens, they seemed to be upset by me and started to move off; vacating their positions. That, or they just happened to be finished with whatever they were doing at the time. I also noticed webbing around them, but webbing is everywhere around here. I am not sure whether the webbing is from them or the spiders. But the spiders are our friends. Spiders are not rushing to eat these, and that makes a giant problem for our little
Vine Maple.
At first, I thought they were actually attacking and eating the eggs, and that I happened upon them in their feasting frenzy. But the adults do not appear to be ravaging them as a predator might do. After observing them for a while, I came to the conclusion that they may actually be rearing their young. It alsmost appears that they are helping the babies out of their eggs... But the nymphs here, look too dark and possibly too large to be the babies that have come from these eggs; so I was left with more questions.
Are the newly hatched babies transparent or translucent, as many other insects are when freshly hatched, not becoming all that visible until having grown for awhile? Also, some of the nymphs appear to have 8 legs, though it may be their antennae. Perhaps they are just laying the eggs, but these look emptied, at least some of them do. Unless those are very little seedsized larvae or eggs in those little cylinders. Perhaps the nymphs are sealing off the newly laid eggs for later hatches.
These beetles also obviously have a hardened shell-like back. Backs that should be split with wings underneathe. Having observed these guys for way too long now, I have also noted that I yet to see a single beetle reposition, lift and spread, clean, or tend to any appendages that might be under their hard shelled backsides. I have also taken note that their color and bright markings may be a sign that they taste really bad to anything that might decide to predate upon them.
Below, they seem to be making an exit as if by some agreement made between them; now moving off from their positioning. They appear to be leaving in unison. I wonder about their communication. How do they do it? Do they use an expressive vocalization well out of my hearing range? Is it done telepathically? By odor? Or is it instinctual, something that just happens in a particular order, successively, year after year, after year, without any forethought.

As the adults of this species vacate the scene, they appear to be leaving the nymphs in charge, caring for the eggs, some which may now be empty, and some occupied, including some that appear to be very new, with a creamy color throughout. Some even seem to have little lids but then I could be totally wrong.

These nymphs seem to be tending these eggs. Perhaps they are eating them, or cultivating them, in a bizarro-symbiotic way...raise them to a certain age, and then, when ripe, they are consumed like a delicious fruit. Perhaps they allow a certain amount to hatch and live to further the species, and providing sustanence for later or the following year.

The adults, after leaving the winged seed pod, have moved to other seed pods on the same branch. They have now separated from each other and seem to be happily doing their thing on the tree. Note: Another thing noticed this particular year, every winged seed pod on this tree has the same brown scarring on them. This was not present last year, nor are the other Viney Maples showing the same scarring...yet. It may be possible, or probable, that this is related to these little varmits.
Now, I have been here year after year after year, too. Why is it, that I have never noticed them before this? I noticed these guys immediately when I stood by the tree. Was it just my vantage point at that particular moment? It is not often that a new species comes to me (of course, some of you will remeber our European Pine SawFly attack earlier this year, an infestation that if we had not noticed it when we did, would have cost us our entire set of Mugo Pines, leaving only tufts at the top of our beautiful trees). I hadn't noticed them before either, though I have to admit that when I saw the winged SawFly adult version that hatches (from the larvae that we eradicated just prior to its seeking the soil under the tree for underground pupation), I did indeed recognize their frilly antennae from the prior year's summer. But I will never forget them now.

Once again, these are new. As soon as we discover their latin name and common names, I will research them and then more than likely eradicate them. Until then...taking pictures and learning is the way for me to understand their necessitiy for life. But life is short, and the tree will inevitably become short, once the leaves are all off and gone. The seed pods have always hung long after the leaves fall, seemingly created to blow away by the winter storms, finding new fresh soil from which to tap their roots into. This tree, in particular, is about to be hard pruned, everything stripped off and discarded, uhhh, after beign sprayed with pyrithium or Safer, depending upon what I learn about them.

It also depends on you (reading this blog) and what you might know about these tiny critters. If you recognize them or think you know someone that might know about them, please leave a comment in the comment area of this post, and I will happliy wiki them, or even use my feet to go to the library if necessary...


No comments: